Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Structure of Physics

My dear brother Lane asked me to give an overview of math and physics in terms of the sub-disciplines of each field. I'll do physics now, and math maybe later. I think math is rather more difficult.

I. Physics
A. Elementary Particle Physics (deals with the tiniest particles known to man)
1. Quantum Electrodynamics (synthesis of quantum mechanics and electromagnetics). Note: the most accurate theory man has ever devised.
a. Theory
b. Experiment
2. Quantum Chronodynamics (synthesis of quantum mechanics with the nuclear strong force, the force that holds nuclei together)
a. Theory
b. Experiment
3. Electroweak (synthesis of electromagnetism with the nuclear weak force, the force responsible for radioactive decay; works against the strong force.) I believe this theory is also quantized, or sythesized with quantum mechanics.
a. Theory
b. Experiment
4. Quantum Field Theory (something of a unification of the previously mentioned theories; not yet a Theory of Everything (ToE))
a. Theory
b. Experiment
5. String Theory (highly theoretical attempt to integrate quantum mechanics, and hence all unifications up to date including those mentioned above, with the least understood force of them all: gravity. Of the four fundamental forces, electromagnetic, strong, weak, and gravity, gravity is the least understood. There is no experimental side to string theory, because everything involved is much too small to observe with any existing equipment.) Note on Elementary Particle Physics: you are classified as either theoretical or experimental. You are also classified according to the energies you are working with. High energy, medium energy, low energy are the options.
B. Nuclear Physics (deals with nuclear forces and reactions including radioactive decay)
1. Theory
2. Experiment (includes nuclear engineering)
C. Solid State Physics aka Condensed Matter Physics (the origin of computers is here, along with superconductivity and phases (gas, liquid, solid))
1. Theory
2. Experiment
D. Astrophysics (deals mostly with gravity, special and general relativity, and cosmology; also includes astronomy)
1. Theory
2. Experiment
E. Optics (classical and quantum theories, wavelets, antennae, lenses, fiber optics, etc.)
1. Theory
2. Experiment
F. Mathematical Physics (this really doesn't fit right in with any of the previous categories, but it is extremely important. The term "physicist" wasn't invented until the 1800's; before that, everyone in physics was pretty much what we would now call a mathematical physicist. Also: these people are the theoreticians of the theoreticians. These people, for the most part, do not belong in the lab.)
1. Functional Analysis (deals with abstracting the notion of a function.)
a. Operator Theory
b. Abstract Spaces (metric, normed, Banach, Hilbert spaces)
2. Differential Equations
a. Partial Differential Equations
b. Ordinary Differential Equations
c. Integral Equations and Integro-differential equations
3. Special Functions (Bessel, Laguerre, Legendre, etc.)
4. Algebraic Methods (group theory especially)

Well, I think that's about it for now. I might revise this later.

Visit Math Help Boards for friendly, free and expert math help.


At 1/22/2006 11:31:00 PM , Blogger Esther said...

*gulps* Is it terribly rude of me not to read that whole post?! ;)

At 1/23/2006 08:17:00 AM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

*laughs* Of course not. I'm well aware of your... lack of interest, shall we say? On the other hand, my brother is not technically trained (very much) in the physical sciences or math, either. He's the one who wanted it, just as a way of knowing sort of what's going on. I was hoping my summary would not be too technical, so the average reader could at least get something out of it. But no, I'll not be offended in the slightest if you don't read it.

In Christ.

At 1/23/2006 09:23:00 AM , Blogger Susan said...

*psst* Esther, over here -->>

Adrian wasn't going to know if you didn't read the whole thing! You didn't have to spill the beans. The correct response is to nod and smile. I think we've discussed such tactics before, if I'm not mistaken. Let me demonstrate.

"Very nice, Adrian." *smiles and nods*

Just couldn't resist ;).

I must admit myself not well-versed enough in physics-ease to find a gread deal of interest in a bulleted list of physics topics, although I did love the calculus-based physics course I took in college; it was fascinating. If I could have substituted Physics II for my education courses, I would have done so.

I did recognize a lot of the Physics terms you used (though I certainly could not define them!), no doubt due to my Brother Dear's interest in Physics. He added a Physics major for a short time, before deciding to just concentrate on Computer Science.

Now an overview of math, that I would thoroughly enjoy :-D.

Esther, if Adrian does post a math list, remember what we talked about, ok?

At 1/25/2006 09:10:00 AM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

You two are such a trip. Incidentally, Susan, just a thought: it might have been even funnier if you had left out the "Just couldn't resist" comment. It's not according to the rules of dead-pan, you know. :-) Jokes as good as the one you posted just don't need to be made aware of themselves. (Sentient jokes?!?)

Anyhoo, thanks for making me laugh and smile.

At 1/25/2006 06:44:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

Yes, I'm still working on my methods of humor. . . I often feel the need to clarify that I am joking, even when it's obvious I am. The reason? As a natural blond(e), I have my own dense moments, and have been known to completely fall for obvious jokes. Since Esther is a natural blond as well, I thought I'd help a fellow blond out a bit ;).

Natural Blonds of the World Unite!

At 1/28/2006 04:19:00 PM , Blogger Bethgem said...

"Note: the most accurate theory man has ever devised."

How do you know? I know little enough about this to be under the impression that it's only circumstantially experimentable (is that a word?). And mathematics indicates its veracity. Is that true?

At 1/28/2006 04:21:00 PM , Blogger Bethgem said...

Can you do a post, since you mentioned radioactive decay, dealing with carbon dating? I still don't quite understand how that works (or doesn't work). I know it's asking a lot...

At 1/28/2006 04:23:00 PM , Blogger Bethgem said...

Okay, I'm a moron. Obviously carbon isn't radioactive. Can you explain it anyway?


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